As North Carolina lawmakers debate whether poor-performing public school teachers should continue to enjoy special protection — teacher tenure or career status as it’s called in our state — Politico reports on the fading clout of teacher unions.
Teachers unions still have too much money and too many members to be counted out. Collectively, they represent 3.8 million workers and retirees. They bring in more than $2 billion a year.
Yet the share of Americans who see teachers unions as a negative influence on public schools shot up to 43 percent last year, up from 31 percent in 2009, according to national polling conducted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and the journal Education Next. By contrast, 32 percent see unions as a positive force, up from 28 percent in 2009, the poll found.
Labor’s fading clout was evident earlier this month in the California primary, when unions representing teachers and other public-sector workers spent nearly $5 million to boost state Superintendent Tom Torlakson to a second term — but failed to bring in enough votes for him to win outright.
Parents are rising up to fight for their children.
“People increasingly view teachers unions as a problem, or the problem,” said David Menefee-Libey, a politics professor at Pomona College who studies education politics. That’s a striking shift, he said, because “for decades the unions were viewed as the most likely to contribute to the improvement of public education.”
Winter Hall, the mother of a 7-year-old in a Los Angeles public school, echoed that sentiment.
“Whenever there are teachers unions, it always comes off like the unions serve themselves — like it’s not about the education of the children,” she said.
Eager to push back, Hall helped organize a “parent union” at her daughter’s school, with help from the nonprofit Parent Revolution, which has received millions in funding from some of the nation’s richest philanthropies to organize moms and dads into a counterweight to teachers unions. She said it wasn’t a hard sell.
Teacher unions seek to protect teacher jobs at all costs, no matter the teachers’ performance. That is their reason for existing.